War of words escalates

John Dimsdale Apr 26, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: Here’s where we are with Iran and its secretive nuclear program: Right back at square one, it seems. Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamanei said today Iran would strike at U.S. interests if it’s attacked. The International Atomic Energy Agency is due to report to the United Nations on Friday. That report will probably say Iran has been ignoring UN demands that it stop enriching uranium. Thus triggering a Western request for sanctions. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, the House of Representatives went out on its own today and approved unilateral economic sanctions. Never mind what the President wants.

From Washington, Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports.

JOHN DIMSDALE: Since the United States has so far been unable to convince China and Russia to join international sanctions on Iran, a large majority of House members think the US should proceed with its own financial pressure. The bill approved today would block loans and export licenses to companies that do business with Iran’s oil industry. It would also prevent US pension funds from investing in such firms. Since the US already has a comprehensive embargo on Iran, these sanctions would affect foreign companies, notably from Europe. New York Democrat Joseph Crowley is one sponsor.

JOSEPH CROWLEY: This legislation is needed to let our allies know that the House of Representatives and the United States are serious about using economic means to isolate Iran and ensure they end their nuclear weapons ambitions. Words are sometimes not enough.

In a letter to Congress, the State Department warned unilateral sanctions will tie the government’s diplomatic hands. And some US companies argue the bill’s restrictions on foreign loans and investments will only persuade international companies to take their business elsewhere. Jake Colvin is director of USA Engage, a coalition of companies that oppose unilateral sanctions.

JAKE COLVIN: If the whole point of sanctions is to affect behavior in Iran, these capital market sanctions in Iran and sanctions in general are feel-good measures that don’t have any practical effect.

A few House members argued US sanctions are setting the stage for further conflict with Iran, but the bill was approved 397 to 21. The Senate has yet to consider its own version.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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